Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
What is Equine Assisted Psychotherapy & Counselling (EAP)?
EAP is a professional counselling and/or psychotherapy service which is co-facilitated with an *accredited mental health practitioner and a therapy horse.
Fundamental to therapeutic healing and growth is the relationship you build with your therapist, your therapy horse and yourself. Humans find their sense of self in relationship, so it is through this time spent in a respectful trusting relationship with their therapy horse and therapist, which supports and inspires a client on a journey of deep personal reflection, discovery and reconnection to their authentic selves.
Horses have an innate drive to seek relationship and congruence from people, offering an emotionally intimate and safe space, naturally free from judgement. This supportive space is also what a good therapist provides their clients and research shows 75% of positive therapeutic outcomes are due to this relationship. EAP provides a client the opportunity to experience this healing relationship with not only their therapist but also their therapy horse.
A microcosm of the client’s world is mirrored through their relationship with their therapy horse enabling the client to achieve great insight and self-awareness. Sometimes it is easier for clients to receive this self-awareness from a non-judgemental horse. Self-awareness is key to healing and reconnecting you back to your authentic presence, a space within where you will be empowered to respond to life rather than react. Where you will be able to support yourself, be emotionally available in relationships, and find fulfilment and inspiration to be true to yourself, to ask for your needs and adaptively navigate the cycles of life’s challenges.
It allows you to build relationships that are free from damaging perceptions, patterns, dysfunctional attachment styles and familial burdens.
Just like other forms of counselling and psychotherapy EAP is an interactive process to address psychotherapy and counselling goals set forth by the licensed mental health professional in collaboration with the client. The special difference with EAP is the client also experiences the therapy processes with their therapy horse.
EAP is highly effective for adolescents and adults and is delivered through individual or groups programs. The goal is to help clients to achieve positive therapeutic outcomes for emotional, cognitive, social and behavioural challenges.
Equine Assisted Therapies definitely do require a licensed mental health professional.
***It is important to verify that the individual who is advertising themselves as a an EAP counsellor or psychotherapist has received clinical training in and is licensed by their accrediting body. In Australia that includes *PACFA link and *ACA link.
Horses bring nature into the therapy process, heightening our awareness to our own natural experience to being alive in the moment. They make it possible for us to re-connect in a truly authentic and natural way to ourselves, others and our environment.
Unlike humans who are predators, horses are prey animal which has led them to develop finely tuned senses and intuition which has help them survive millions of years. To stay alive, they need to be aware of their environment. This powerful awareness keeps them connected to themselves, anyone in their company and their environment. They smell, see, hear, taste and feel what is going on for their human companion. So much so they tend to match the heart rate of their human companion. This heightened awareness allows the horse to tap into what the clients is experiencing and give immediate feedback to the client. Horses are brilliant in bringing insight to how a client is behaving or feeling, even if the client is not aware of it. It is often these incongruences in client’s assumptions of themselves and what is actually being felt that opens up great opportunity for the client to get support and self-awareness.
Therapy horses highlight attachment patterns, intentions and habits. The therapist can then support the client to process and heal while opening up opportunity for responsive choice around new ways of being and emotional and relational growth.
Very similar to humans, they are keenly social and live together in herds. Like us they build relationship s with each other their herd have familiar structures, hierarchies and roles. Like humans they desire relationships with others and it is within this relationship that a client can find themselves.
Some of the benefits
Build trust and confidence
Learning how to ground and self-regulate and soothe yourself during stressful times
Great insight and increased self-awareness of negative and positive behaviours, thoughts, actions and habits
Learning to be present with yourself
Self-acceptance and spiritual awareness
Reducing anxiety and stress
Feeling empowered and free
Improved communication and ability to have boundaries
Learning and building awareness and skills to enable choice on how to respond rather than being lost in painful reactions to life
Improved connection to emotions, sensations, and special awareness
Increasing ability to hold attention and focus
***EAP does not involve riding, however it is very much a hands approach where clients may feed, groom and work with the horse through varied ground activities.
Effective therapy treatment
Research has proven EAP is effective for treating PTSD, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, anger management, teenage developmental and behaviour challenges and attention issues and many other challenges.
Other models of therapy integrated into EAP
Your mental health counsellor will also include other counselling models into the EAP sessions. Depending on their training they may include psycho-education, solution focused therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, trauma informed therapy, emotional focused therapy, mindfulness skills, gestalt therapy and more.